Observatory decision in interest of taxpayers: Mayor

Cancellation of project by Mission council leads to counter-claims

Mission council

Mission council

Mission council is unanimous — it will be taking over management of Fraser River Heritage Park at the end of the year.

Mayor Randy Hawes made that clear Tuesday, as he responded to some of the comments made about the controversial observatory project which is a topic of disagreement between council and the Mission Heritage Association, which has operated the park since its inception in 1986.

The District of Mission invoked a clause in the contract last December, giving notice that it planned to take over park operations in December of this year.

“Council is unanimous and is not changing its plan. It is a decision we had to make in the interests of taxpayers. All this carping is destructive and divisive,” the mayor said.

Hawes responded to comments made by Paul Greenhalgh, president of the Fraser Valley Astronomers Society, that no delegation from his group had ever spoken to Mission council or the mayor about the observatory. A district press release issued last week indicated that “FVAS has withdrawn their support” for the project.

Greenhalgh maintained that was not true.

However, Hawes told The Record, “Mark McLaughlin, one of the (FVAS) directors, contacted one of the councillors. He said the society had told MHA that there were two other sites in Heritage Park that were much better sites, and also said that talk about charging kids to visit the observatory was contrary to what the society supports. He said it did not support charging school children.”

Hawes said he called McLaughlin after he had contacted the councillor, and the district’s press release was based on what McLaughlin told him and the councillor.

The mayor also said the district did give approval for MHA to go ahead with excavating the foundation for the observatory, but told the association to “go no further without building plans and a permit.

”There are still no building plans and a permit.”

Hawes said the plans were promised on a number of occasions but were not delivered to the chief building inspector as requested. While the district has drawings, that is not sufficient to allow building to go ahead, he said.

“The lesson council takes out of this is no project of this magnitude on publicly owned property should take place unless there is funding in place, timelines for construction and use of professionals,” he said.

He said it is going to cost the district $175,000 to bring the Clayburn (maintenance) building up to code, $300,000 to bring the Blackberry Kitchen into compliance with regulations, and another $100,000 to put in a kitchen that meets current building code requirements.

These improvements have not been in the district’s capital plan, as it has not been responsible for Heritage Park, but need to be done, he said. Thus they have an effect on other capital projects.

Hawes said the district plans to have municipal employees cut grass at the park when it takes over, but otherwise is anticipating that the park continue to have an active volunteer presence, and be operated under contract. He said the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) “doesn’t have a problem with volunteers.”

He said the district is looking at making Heritage Park even more of a public attraction, and has had discussions with the Mission folk festival directors about whether other musical events could be pursued. The popular weekly concerts in the park will continue next year.

He said the district’s primary concerns are that buildings on the site meet building code requirements, and new structures be built by professionals. The district, like all municipalities, takes liability very seriously and wants to protect taxpayers against those types of claims, he stated.

Just Posted

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of June 20

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Pedestrian hit by police vehicle in Langley

Injuries described as serious, requiring surgery

Most Read